“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, tonight’s main event will be decided over sixteen kilometres.”
It's Friday night at Burnaby Velodrome Club's Western Challenge. The elite men are lined up at the rail, about to begin their Split / Points race. I'm about seventh rider back — trying not to laugh too hard at Dylan Davies’ mock commentating.
“In the black shorts… everybody.” Alright. That was pretty funny.
Trek Red Truck Racing makes up a significant portion of the group. Erik Diertens, who finished third in this morning’s Individual Pursuit, sits front and centre at the rail. The eager firstyear U23 has been showing promising results since the team’s arrival in Burnaby. He’s still on a high from this morning’s racing. Chris MacLeod is positioned behind him. The quiet Halifax native put on a show earlier today in the Men’s KILO, finishing just half a second off Zachary Kovalcik’s winning time. Alexander Murison and I round out the group.
The commissaire tells us to roll out. After a quick half lap, we’re racing.
The men weren’t the only ones dawning Red Truck kit on the podium today. Holly Simonson dominated the Women’s Individual Pursuit, beating her nearest competitor by over fifteenseconds. She showed her prowess in the shorter distance too with a first in the 500m Time Trial.
The Split / Points race comes to a close. Al finishes with a strong second place behind Kovalcik. The two will continue to battle it out for the top spot throughout the weekend. Erik finishes third with Chris not far behind.
Soon after is the Chariot race qualifiers. With two heats of two and every rider automatically advancing to the final, Al and Chris ride their technicality lap at a gentleman’s pace. Hecklers scream and cheer as the two TRT boys take a lap side by side.
The Antiquoena was another great display of strength for the Red Truck crew. Holly Simonson added to her podium tally with a second place finish behind Tripleshot’s Sarah Van Dam. Al Murison finished a single point off the podium but won the final two sprints.
The Men’s Chariot Race Final was the last event of the evening. A four up, one-and-a-half lap sprint was what was on the agenda for Chris and Al. The race was an exciting one, with the sprint speed maxing out at 59.157 km/h and clocking a final 200m time of 12.171. Chris reigned victorious with Al coming in strong to earn 2nd.
The Trek Red Truck Crew awoke bright and early on Saturday morning. Fresh snow blanketed the parking lot as athletes made their way into the dome. Coffee in hand and racing on the mind, it’s Omnium day. For endurance riders, the Omnium is what you come to race for — well, that and pursuits.
The Elite/Jr Women Scratch Race was the first event of the day to see Red Truck Racing red. Although the Omnium is never decided by the Scratch race, it is a crucial event for seeing how the legs will fire throughout the day. For Holly Simonson, things were looking good. Lapping the field along with two other competitors, Holly earned herself the third spot with a speedy dash to the line. On the men’s side, average race-pace reached a speed of 47.2 km/h. Al Murison continued his rivalry with Kovalcik, with Zak drawing first blood. It was a second place finish for Al, and an eighth through tenth sweep for MacLeod, Diertens and myself.
“OFF THE FRONT ONCE AGAIN! IT’S THE SAME THREE WOMEN… IT’S THE THREE MUSKETEERS!”
The crowd was roaring as the announcer worked to describe the three women who seemed to be on a level all of their own. Micaiah Besler, Sarah Van Dam, and Red Truck’s own Holly Simonson weren’t long pulling away from the field in the Elite/Jr Women Tempo Race. After six kilometres, Holly’s points earned her another third-place finish, respectively. Erik Diertens shocked the field in the Mens Tempo. The first year U23 won nine of the sprints, beating out veterans and earning respect in throughout the field.
Trek Red Truck dominance continued similarly throughout the day’s remaining Omnium events. Holly Simonson earned 2nd in the Elimination and 3rd in the Points Race, completing her Omnium with bronze. Al Murison won the Mens Elimination and came 2nd in the Mens Points Race — good for 2nd place overall in the Omnium. A late flat put an end to Al’s final points surge. Zachary Kovalcik later praised his chief competitor, saying, ‘He [Al] was the real deserver of the top spot.’ Erik Diertens continued to impress with a twenty-two lap solo attack in the Mens Points. His efforts earned him 5th in the Omnium overall. Chris MacLeod finished his Omnium in 7th and myself, 10th, respectively.
Sunday morning was the beginning of the final day of racing at Burnaby Velodrome Club’s Western Challenge. The four attending Trek Red Truck men rode a strong Team Pursuit, earning a time of 4:44.91 for their four-kilometre ride — good enough for silver. Holly Simonson competed in the Women Team Sprint, along with Zoe Saccio, as the composite team, “Trek Red Truck / Fluevog”. Their 32.742-second ride earned them 2nd place in Elite Women.
For many, the end of the Sunday morning session meant the beginning of one of the most exciting events track racing has to off; the Keirin. The Keirin was the event I was most excited about, personally, at the Western Challenge. I enjoy the raw power, the quick reactions, and the variety of strategies keirin racing demands of you. Heat #1 saw two Red Truck riders competing in the group of five. I drew first position behind the motorbike while Erik Diertens was a few riders back. I was disappointed when I saw that I had drawn first spot; I’ve never won a keirin from anywhere but third to fourth position.
“Colin, you’re not going to swing up,” said Pacific Cycling Centre coach, Houshang Amiri. “What?” “When the motorbike pulls off, just stay in the front. Don’t try and sprint these guys. As soon as you see them coming around…” Houshang makes a throttle gesture with his hand. “Got it.”
We’re off. The pace builds as the motorbike nears ‘four laps to go.’ We peak at 50 km/h before the bike swings down and off the track. I take the first without decreasing speed. Houshang gestures for me to ease off as we cross the line with three to go. We go through turns one and two, then onto the backstretch. I glimpse Kovalcik moving up the outside. Unsure of whether he’s attacking or merely moving up, my legs react without me realising. I hit them as hard as I can from the front. I do three laps with every ounce of power my legs can muster. Von Winkelmann appears next to me before the line, and we throw our bikes — uselessly I might add since the top three riders advance. I get the win by a narrow margin.
It’s minutes before the Mens Keirin Final. Erik Diertens catches me eyeing the sprinters getting ready to head to the start area.
“What’s your game plan?” He asks. “Mess up everyone else's game plan.” We share a laugh. “You know what you’re gonna do, right?” Houshang says quietly as we step up on the track. “Go right away?” “As soon as the bike starts pulling off.”
That’s what I do. I start going over the top with three to go, and Von hops on my wheel. I use the banking to attack, nearly brushing Kovalcik as I hit the front and beyond. I don’t dare look back, just pedal. My legs start shutting down. There’s nothing I can do as the cadence begins to drop. It’s the bell lap! The tank is empty, but I can taste the finish. Then, suddenly, I’m swarmed. The sprinters blow past me as they reach peak velocity on their way to the line. It’s the finishing straight. Another rider goes past as my legs surrender.
I exit the tack with a massive smile on my face. I had it. My muscles just weren’t quite prepared. I’m met with pats on the back and friendly faces as I make my way back to the TRT pits. ‘You sure made ‘em work for it.’
Trek Red Truck Racing commanded the racing at the 2018 Western Challenge and continued to do so for the rest of the day. Although it took me a couple days to find my legs, I was overjoyed to have a supportive group of teammates at this year’s event. Impressive results for every rider on the team foreshadows a strong season to come. Keirin racing reminded me how awesome it feels to ride bikes without brakes.